Spinal Fusion Surgery may lead to PTSD

Spinal surgery may lead to PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is a common condition that millions of people a year will encounter. Symptoms include mood, behavioral, and physiological changes along with disturbances to your sleep cycles and cognitive functions. Though there is no “cure” for PTSD, treatment is found to be very beneficial. Treatment options vary greatly because the condition varies greatly.. We used to usually just associated PTSD with soldiers returning from war but it can experienced following any traumatic event such as assault, bad relationships, or automobile accidents just to name a few. There is some evidence suggesting that certain spine surgeries could also lead to PTSD.

What is spinal fusion surgery?

Spinal fusion surgery is the mechanical linking of two or more bones to completely immobilize the joints between them. Most commonly performed in the lumbar spine, this controversial surgery is performed for conditions such as scoliosis, degenerative joint disease, disc herniations, and spinal tumors. It accounted for 3% of operating room procedures in 2011 – a 70% growth since 2001.

Making the connection between spinal fusion surgery and PTSD

In 2012, the Oregon Health and Sciences University conducted a study to investigate a link between PTSD and elective spinal fusion surgery. Elective meaning that the surgery wasn’t absolutely necessary but that the patient chose that treatment option over other treatment options. The researchers did find a link and calculated the odds of developing PTSD after spinal fusion surgery to be 20% (1 in 5).

They looked at 73 consecutive surgeries and checked in with the patients regularly for months after the operation to see how they were doing. The researchers ran an objective civilian PTSD questionnaire across the patients to see where they fell on the scale. At each point, some portion of those having undergone the surgery were suffering from PTSD. The highest occurrences were at 3 and 9 months.

Now obviously there are a lot of variables here. So the researchers went on to see what mattered the most. They found that people with prior psychological conditions had the greatest chance of developing PTSD. They also found the occurrence of a complication, being younger than 50, losing more than a liter of blood, and staying in the hospital for more than 10 days also had significant predictive values.

To see more, check out the news post from OHSU here

All surgeries have risks. Some more than others and often times, the benefits will outweigh those risks. But it’s important to be made aware of all the potential risks when electing to have any procedure. The development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following spinal fusion surgery is not often talked about but with odds of 20%, it’s worth knowing and making sure you and your surgeon have a plan for follow up care and post surgical support.

Questions about this post?

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